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New focus for juvenile courts

By Richard W. Kirby Modified: May 17, 2008 at 7:38 am •  Published: May 17, 2008
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The number of attorneys representing indigent parents has increased from five to eight, allowing each judge to spend more time with the case and make more informed decisions based on the best interests of the child.

The part-time referee is now full time, available to assist judges with critical issues, such as monitoring DHS efforts to find homes for the children in temporary shelters.

The public defender plans to have six of the recommended eight children's attorneys on staff by July 1, 2008.

More action is planned. This week, the Juvenile Justice Center held an open house to help families with the goal of helping before a child "becomes a case." On Thursday, the judges will meet with critical personnel to review all practices to determine additional ways to find permanent homes for these children.

There are several ways individuals can help children in protective custody — as a volunteer with organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Lawyers for Children or the Post Adjudication Review Board — or by becoming a foster parent. These children are gifts from God. With your help, we can make a difference in their lives.

Kirby is associate district judge presiding over the Oklahoma County juvenile courts.